Collection

Founded on the collection of the late Professor Kirk Wipper, and established in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1997, the museum’s holdings now number more than 600 canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft with over 100 on display in our galleries. Together they span the country from coast to coast to coast and represent many of the major watercraft traditions of Canada.

The museum’s artifacts range from the great dugouts of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to the singular bark canoes of the Beothuk of Newfoundland; from the skin-on-frame kayaks of northern peoples from Baffin Island in the east to the Mackenzie River Delta in the northwest to the all-wood and canvas-covered craft manufactured by companies with names like Herald, Peterborough, Chestnut, Lakefield and Canadian. Over the years paddled watercraft from as far away as Paraguay and the Amazon have helped the Museum expand its reach and scope to include International examples.

On December 7, 2017, we welcomed several of Gordon Lightfoot’s canoes into our collection.

Some examples from our collection:

1999.16.1
Bill Mason’s 16 foot red Prospector canoe is possibly the most famous canoe in Canada. It arrived at the Mason home on Meech Lake, north of Ottawa, from the builder in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in spring, 1973. From that moment, the canoe was used in all of Bill Mason’s projects, his instructional films on canoeing,  his books, The Path of the Paddle, The Song of the Paddle, and his last epic film, Waterwalker. It was frequently used on Bill’s month-long solo trips on the north shore of Lake Superior, on family trips in Algonquin Park, on trips down the Pukaskwa River, north of Superior, where the canoe ribs were damaged. Bill danced at his son’s wedding with the canoe on his shoulders, and his wife, Joyce, scattered Bill’s ashes from it in 1989. It was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum after their daughter, Becky, performed a canoe ballet on the Trent-Severn Waterway in Peterborough in 1999.
1980.6.1
This Salish Clam-Gathering Dugout is a unique example of a craft used for a specific purpose. Measuring 8 feet long, 3 feet wide,1 foot deep, it was built at Sidney on Vancouver Island and designed to be strong and stable to be used by women and children around the islands off the south coast of Vancouver Island to harvest clams. This particular dugout was obtained in 1980 from Mrs. Edith Cross, aged 90.
1977.1.1
The Haida dug-out, 22’ 10”, was commissioned in 1967 by Kirk Wipper, director of Camp Kandalore. It was built by Victor Adams at Masset, on Haida Gwaii, from a single cedar log. No such canoe had been built within living memory, and Adams was mentored by Adam Bell, an elder. Construction took three years and was completed in 1971, along with paddles and a bailer. The canoe, painted black, was decorated by Adams and his daughter, Alice Montjoy, with a white eagle, to symbolize ownership by a chief, the head of the eagle at the bow, the broad tail-feathers at the stern. When Kirk Wipper arrived to accept the canoe and took it out for a trial paddle, he mistook the stern for the bow, and he and his paddlers had to turn around in their seats. The canoe arrived at Ontario Place in Toronto in 1972, and after a ceremonial welcome it was paddled through the Trent-Canal system to Camp Kandalore by a group of campers. The building of this canoe marked the revival of the Haida tradition of canoe-building. To quote Victor Adams, “it was a hard job, but I liked the result”. His son and grandson are now building traditional Haida canoes.

Collection Highlights

– from our blog –

Valentine’s Day

With over 1000 postcards in our archival collection, we couldn’t pick just one photo to share with you on Valentine’s Day! Whether you have someone to canoodle, you're hanging with your gal pals, or paddling solo, we hope you are feeling the love today. All images are...

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Archival Exploration and Discovery!

A while ago, The Canadian Canoe Museum was fortunate in acquiring a hugely significant collection of archival materials related to the industry of canoe manufacturing in Canada. This collection, made up of original documents, publications and images is largely...

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